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Thrashers hire Torchetti as associate coach

DULUTH -- John Torchetti, one of the coaches instrumental in guiding the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship, was hired as the Atlanta Thrashers' associate coach Thursday.

He was on hand for the first day of the Thrashers' prospect development camp at the IceForum in Duluth, giving him a good look at his new team's talent pool. Players he might be working with very soon.

"It's a great fit for me," Torchetti said. "To come to another group of young guys -- this is my fourth team with young players -- with Tampa Bay and Florida, Moncton in juniors, then Chicago.

"It's a lot of fun to walk into these situations where the team has great potential to move up in the standings, to get better. That's the environment you want to work in."

Torchetti was long mentioned as a candidate for the head coaching job in Atlanta. That was filled on June 24 with the hiring of Boston assistant coach Craig Ramsay, whom Torchetti has worked with in the past. Torchetti, 45, comes to the Thrashers with 26 years of pro hockey experience as a player and coach.

"I worked with Rammer in Tampa Bay," Torchetti said. "I was really impressed with him, it was only his second year (as a head coach) in the league. He was a real knowledgeable guy and I learned a great deal. We kept in touch over the years.

"He even helped me out. They played Philly when he was still in Boston and he gave us some great insight on things they could have probably done better to beat Philly and they really helped us out (in the Stanley Cup finals)."

Torchetti is also well acquainted with Atlanta general manager Rick Dudley, who also held that position with the Blackhawks before coming to the Thrashers. This is the fourth NHL team in which Torchetti and Dudley have worked together.

Dudley was also Torchetti's first coach.

"Leaving Chicago was a tough decision, but I've been with Rick a long time," Torchetti said. "I have a lot of belief in Rick and he has a lot of belief in myself as coach. Our dream has always been to win a Stanley Cup and we were halfway there in Chicago so hopefully we can do that here.

"Rick and Donnie Waddell recommended me for my first job in the IHL, in Fort Wayne. So I've known Donnie for a long time, too. They're both good people."

The list of familiar faces doesn't stop there.

Torchetti will know many of the Thrashers, probably better than most everyone else in the city. With the addition of Andrew Ladd a week ago, Atlanta has traded for four players off the Blackhawks' title-winning roster.

"Yeah, there's some boys that I know quite well," Torchetti said with a smile. "Great additions to the organization."

Also acquired in the initial trade that featured Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel was prospect Akim Aliu, who was at the IceForum on Thursday for the development camp.

"He's got a lot of potential," Torchetti said. "I think now this being his third camp, I've already seen a little bit where he's a calmer as a player, meaning he knows what's expected of him coming here. He doesn't have to come here and be flashy. He knows there's a certain role and a certain system that's he's going to have to play. I think we'll see that just here in the prospect camp. And hopefully he plays very well and it can carry over to the big camp."

The development camp runs through Tuesday and features two on-ice sessions today, both open to the public, at 9-9:45 a.m. and 2:30-5 p.m.